Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto join efforts against Big Oil consolidation

A view of Arco gas station in Las Vegas, United States on November 17, 2023. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By Sophie Boudreau

March 8, 2024

The senators point to the recent consolidation of Big Oil companies as potential violations of antitrust law, imploring the Federal Trade Commission to investigate several proposed mergers.

Feeling pressure at the pump? With gas prices rising in Nevada, it’s no surprise.

Citing concern for Nevadans’ wallets, Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) signed a letter this week urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to tackle price gouging tactics and investigate anti-competitive Big Oil mergers.

Addressed to FTC Chair Lina Khan and co-signed by 49 members of Congress, the letter names higher costs for everyday Americans, corporate greed, and poor climate outcomes as top concerns.

Members of Congress point to the recent consolidation of several Big Oil companies as potential violations of antitrust law, imploring the FTC to consider fallout from previous mergers as warning signs of future harm.

If a small group of dominant firms is allowed to control this industry, American consumers and industry competition will only suffer,” the members wrote. “Lax enforcement during the last generation, such as allowing Exxon and Mobil to merge, resulted in market manipulation, unstable supply, and price hikes for Americans. We must avoid similar mistakes going forward.”

In recent months, the aforementioned ExxonMobil has made a multibillion-dollar consolidation deal with Pioneer Natural Resources, while oil giant Chevron has made moves to acquire Hess Corp.—even facing proposed counter-offers from Exxon.

Occidental Petroleum also made a deal in December to take over CrownRock for $12 billion, while Chesapeake Energy announced in January that it will merge with Southwestern Energy in a $7.4 billion deal. APA/Apache Corp. has also proposed a plan to buy Callon Petroleum for $4.5 billion, while Diamondback Energy plans to acquire Endeavor Energy Resources for $26 billion.

These companies tout improved efficiency and international competition as merger perks, but members of Congress fear that profits remain corporations’ primary aim.

“Fossil fuel companies have overwhelmingly identified investor pressure as the reason to keep prices high so they can continue to benefit from record profits,” the members wrote. “Americans are paying the price for Big Oil’s greed and are still struggling to keep up with gas prices higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

RELATED: After a push from Sen. Jacky Rosen, the FTC is suing to block the Kroger-Albertsons merger

With spring approaching and milder weather encouraging more road trips, Nevadans can expect to see rising gas prices in the coming weeks.

“Historically, March and April bring higher gas prices as demand rises,” AAA spokesperson Aixa Diaz said in a statement last week. “This time of year tends to be a precursor to the summer driving season.”

The average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Nevada has risen from $3.88 a month ago to $4.10 as of Friday afternoon, according to AAA.

Co-signers of the FTC letter also call out “empty climate pledges” from oil companies.

“Big Oil companies continue to use misinformation to lobby against climate action and expand unabated fossil fuel production,” the letter continues. If proposed company consolidations are approved, the members say, “it will only serve to increase their ability to fend off attempts to rein in their emissions that harm the climate and humans whose lives depend on it.”

 

  • Sophie Boudreau

    Sophie Boudreau is a writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience covering lifestyle, culture, and political topics. She previously served as senior editor at eHow and produced Michigan and Detroit content for Only In Your State.

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